Someone recently suggested that we tell the stories of how the Lord brought us to faith, so I’ll share part of my story today.
I was blessed to be born into a Bible-believing, church-attending family and at the age of six, my mom told me that I could pray a prayer to invite Jesus into my heart. At that point in my life I was convinced of the reality of God and the reality of hell and wanted to be in heaven when I died, and prayed that prayer. I was blessed to grow up in church, absorbing truth through the sermons and especially hymns that we would sing. For the size of our community, we had an active youth group and I was involved in a number of activities.
One of the biggest blessings in my life (in addition to my parents and husband) was the college ministry of our church where I saw other young men and women prioritizing loving and serving others and reaching out. I have also been blessed by the examples of older women in our church – getting to see them seeking God and trusting that God really is the fountain of peace and joy in our lives, even in difficult circumstances.
One thing that I struggled with throughout my whole childhood, though, was that I wasn’t sure I had “prayed the prayer” correctly, and so I doubted my salvation to the point of having a very fearful heart and being uncertain if I would really be with Jesus if I died. It wasn’t until I was in college that through a friend (who happened to be Matt Heerema :)) God helped me see that if I was that concerned about my salvation, then I was desiring God and desiring his Kingdom enough to worry about it. That in itself was evidence of the Holy Spirit working in me and drawing me to himself. And so I didn’t need to worry about whether I had “prayed the prayer correctly”, because the relevant thing was not my correct praying, but God’s calling and drawing. What a relief!
And yet even after this, one question that I was wrestling with as a twenty-something was, “Will God still love me even if I can’t get rid of all my sin?” A deep dive into Romans unlocked a truth about God that I hadn’t yet grasped: God calls us to come to while we are ungodly, and I am counted righteous because of Jesus’ righteousness, not because of my attempt at perfect actions.
“For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in1 him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.” Romans 4:3-5
This resulted in a whole new level of peace and joy in my life: God was not angry with me anymore because Jesus took the wrath I deserved, and he looks at me and sees me in Christ’s righteousness. What amazing news!
One of my favorite songs that we sing on Sunday mornings paints such an amazing picture of God’s work in our lives, and is the core of the Gospel that gives each one of us hope:
I was an orphan lost at the fall
Running away when I’d hear your call
But Father, you worked your will
I had no righteousness of my own
I had no right to draw near your throne
But Father, you loved me still
And in love before you laid the world’s foundation
You predestined to adopt me as your own
You have raised me so high above my station
I’m a child of God by grace and grace aloneYou left your home to seek out the lost
You knew the great and terrible cost
But Jesus, your face was set
I worked my fingers down to the bone
Nothing I did could ever atone
But Jesus, you paid my debt
By your blood I have redemption and salvation
***Lord, you died that I might reap what you have sown***
And you rose that I might be a new creation
I am born again by grace and grace alone
I was in darkness all of my life
I never knew the day from the night
But Spirit, you made me see
I swore I knew the way on my own
Head full of rocks, a heart made of stone
But Spirit, you moved in me
At your touch my sleeping spirit was awakened
On my darkened heart the light of Christ has shone
Called into a kingdom that cannot be shaken
Heaven’s citizen by grace and grace alone
So I’ll stand in faith by grace and grace alone
I will run the race by grace and grace alone
I will slay my sin by grace and grace alone
I will reach the end by grace and grace alone.
(“Grace Alone” by Dustin Kensrue.)